Butterfly study reveals positive indicators
A RECENT assessment by KZN-based and internationally recognised butterfly expert, Steve Woodhall, has uncovered some interesting and exciting findings in the Babanango area.
This is according to Zulu Rock Game Ranch Director Jeffrey van Staden,
Managing game lodges requires an understanding of conservation issues affecting the environment and ecosystems.
A great way of assessing the quality of an area’s biodiversity is through the monitoring of its butterfly populations.
Butterflies are extremely sensitive to changes in their environment, which is why scientists often use butterfly population and behavioural shifts as metrics to measure changes and problems.
Areas rich in butterflies and moths are normally rich in other invertebrates, and collectively provide a wide range of environmental benefits, including pollination and natural pest control.
Lesser seen species
Moths and butterflies are important elements of the food chain and are prey for birds, bats and other insectivorous animals.
During Woodhall’s recent visit to the Zulu Rock and Babanango Outdoor Education Centre, a number of both common and rare varieties of butterflies were recorded.
According to Woodhall’s report, Physcaeneura panda (Dark-webbed Ringlet) butterflies were found there, with lesser numbers found from the lower altitudes of Manguzi Forest through to the highveld.
The Dark-webbed Ringlet, with its beautifully marked Satyrinae and a favourite with butterfly watchers, was found in the grasslands.
Woodhall recorded some less common species such as the Millar’s Hairtail (Anthene millari) and the Mocker Bronze (Cacyreus virilis).
The relative low number of butterfly species recorded during the study indicate that the region has come out of extensive drought.
However, the grass veld appeared to be falling short of natural development or size in some of the forbs and herbs utilised by many butterflies.
This indicates that the veld has not yet fully recovered from past overgrazing on the farms making up the reserve.
But Woodhall’s report is nevertheless extremely encouraging, indicating that host and nectar plants are growing vigorously with a rich grass cover.
With time, good rainfall and proper veld management, the plant biodiversity should return leading to an increase in butterfly species.
Papilio demodocus (Citrus Swallowtail or Christmas butterfly)
A male Axiocerses tjoane (the Eastern Scarlet or Common Scarlet)